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Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Sleep Clinic Encourages Drivers to Be Well-Rested and Alert this Memorial Day Weekend

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May 25, 2007

Chicago -

This weekend will kick off the year’s busiest driving season as many people again hit the roads in celebration of the Memorial Day holiday. According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA), summer is the deadliest time of year for drivers. As millions set out for their vacation destinations, it’s very important to recognize the dangerous and even deadly effect that drowsiness has on driving, and what steps the public can take to prevent drowsy driving.

The National Sleep Foundation identifies the signs of drowsy driving as:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking and heavy eyelids
  • Drifting from your lane, swerving, tailgating
  • Yawning repeatedly
  • Trouble remembering the last few miles driven
  • Missing exits or traffic signs
  • Trouble keeping your head up

If a driver is experiencing one of these signs, the individual should pull over and take a break. Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD and Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital recommends the following five tips to prevent drowsy driving:

Catch some Z’s before the trip  You'll want to be alert for the drive and for your vacation, so aim for a full 8 hours of sleep the night before the trip.

Take your time  Many drivers try to maximize the holiday weekend by driving all night or without stopping for breaks. Rather than rushing to get to your destination, make sure to take a break every 100 miles or 2 hours.

Share the responsibility  Just as you should not swim alone, avoid driving alone for long distances. A buddy who remains awake for the journey can take a turn behind the wheel and help identify the warning signs of fatigue.

Choose your timing  Avoid driving at times when you would normally be sleeping, this can confuse your body and make it more likely that you feel fatigued and sluggish.

Pack some snacks  Pack a cooler filled with caffeinated beverages and snacks. Caffeine takes effect in about 20-30 minutes. If you start to feel drowsy, drink a caffeinated beverage and take a short break to allow time for the caffeine to kick in.

Dr. Phyllis Zee and the experts at the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital provide day and night sleep studies for diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, nocturnal behaviors such as sleep walking, talking and eating in sleep, acting out dreams and narcolepsy.

Last UpdateAugust 8, 2011